This paper reviews the research literature on the relationship between the standard of thinness in American society and eating disorders and body image disturbances. The literature indicates that sociocultural expectations and media images are significantly associated with women’s body dissatisfaction. Furthermore, body dissatisfaction is related to the development of eating disorders. Most studies on this topic are correlational in nature. As a result, it is unclear whether the media and sociocultural factors play a causal role or reinforce the attitudes and behaviors that individuals develop. Studies of cultural variations indicate that Caucasian women tend to show greater dissatisfaction with their bodies than African American women; the greater emphasis on thinness in White America may contribute to the greater vulnerability of Caucasian women.
Dianne King, ’97
Sponsor: Carolyn Enns